Wonderful fights between narcissism and worthlessness

On Absence

Hello blog. I’ve missed you.

In a way, this will just be an extended personal journey entry. But I wanted to have something to discuss the absence so when I  look back on ONE (hopefully) yawning chasm of inactivity years from now, I’ll know why I was away.

11th through 19th of August I was dogsitting in a house with basically no Internet. It was really nice in a lot of ways; my aunt and uncle paid me to be without Internet for a week, because otherwise they just did a bunch of shit for me. They loaned me a house way closer to work with a driveway that was paved and everything, unlike the sideyard here at home. They loaned me two dogs who, if they could have just stopped waking me up at 5am, would have been my best friends. They loaned me a 50″ HD TV that hooked right up to my computer and also had super Satellite TV (the kind with 5,000 channels that just made it harder to navigate between the three channels you’d regularly watch).

And, weirdly enough, they loaned me a vacation from politics.  I missed a lot about the Internet: Shakesville, Youtube as radio, Twitter dearly. But I very quickly got comfortable with not being able to follow politics at all. I thought it’d drive me crazy, being unable to read the news, or follow the realtime unfolding of events, and then writing up my thoughts. I watched MSNBC for an hour just before Paul Ryan was announced, and never watched it or any other news again.  I even wrote, a bunch, and I’m not sure how I’m going to pace publishing, but I have a bunch of posts, some already written and some outlined.  It was a perfect vacation.

I also found out I lost my job coming home.

And I’m only coming back to Twitter and blogging now, two weeks after finishing my puppy playtime.  In that time I continued to write, and I slowly began reading again. I caught back up on the Fatstronauts series on Shakesville and some Captain Awkward, read some Al Jazeera, and caught up on a few lingering articles from before the break. But I kept putting Twitter further off, despite having literally full days to do whatever I want.

As I sit here writing, I’m slowly learning about Clint Eastwood threatening the President by… threatening a chair? I have the video queued up, thanks to someone on Twitter, and also know about it at all this morning thanks to Twitter. I’ve gathered a wonderful group of followed people, and honestly get most of my news first from Twitter anymore. And I prefer it that way. In the way that the Daily Show used to be a good starting point to dig deeper, because it would follow up horrifying shit with a laugh, Twitter makes politics and current events more accessible. It keeps me from turning off, shutting it out, and avoiding it.

Also, side tangent: my friend Derek gifted me Guild Wars 2, which I’ve been playing with him at night, and it’s the best fucking thing. But, thankfully, I think I can honestly say it didn’t factor into not coming back to Twitter, and that’s also the best fucking thing. That’s a major evolution given I can also honestly say that, for most of my World of Warcraft playing time, I was addicted. GW2, so far, has been running around some beautiful environments as a plant person, questing some, gathering some, jump puzzling some (I fucking love jump puzzles, and the jump physics and puzzles in this game aren’t even that good and they still are great) and just generally enjoying the feeling of no pressure. I have a quest line I’ve been following, but mostly I just wander around maps tyring to find Points of Interest, stumbling upon areas where someone needs me to help capture failed experiments or crush spider eggs, and that’s questing in GW2. Also, once you discover a fast-travel point, you pay a pittance and instantaneously teleport there. No muss no fuss. It’s just so much fun, which is exactly how I want a videogame to feel.

It doesn’t hurt that the support staff is making a clear stand for safe spaces. http://www.reddit.com/r/Guildwars2/comments/yxx3m/suspensions_for_offensive_names_and_inappropriate/ =D =D =D

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Attack on Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI

First and foremost, kind thoughts and well wishes to everyone touched by this tragedy. I hope recoveries are quick and anyone who’s lost a loved one has no more complications this week as they grieve.

Personally, I spent the day with my girlfriend and cut myself off from keeping up with news out of Wisconsin before I started watching the live feed from the local news station in Oak Creek on my computer (which I was linked to on Twitter, because the Internet Age is truly one made of miracles). And my concern going forward will be with the news coverage. What the narrative is, how much victim-blaming occurs, what is discovered about the shooter and what is then focused on or dropped. But today was the day where we learn what has happened, who was effected,and that’s really it. There’s a panic and confusion even as a bystander learning what’s happening, but its a story with few needed details. _____ opened fire. _____ injured. _____dead. Is/is not still ongoing. ______ is suspected/ in custody/ dead.

Still, the narrative in the media (because there is no option not to have one and let the affected move on with their lives) is already beginning to be shaped. There was a glimmer of hope for fair treatment (i.e. this crime happened to these people, not these {ethnicity} ), as the FBI apparently referred to the shooting as a terrorist attack, and there’s a sad realization that their framing can still be a step in the right direction for public narrative. On the other end, a Fox News anchor allegedly asked a local alderman, “To your knowledge there’s been no unrest, ethnic or otherwise, that would relate to this Sikh temple?” a whole twenty fucking minutes into the crisis, while there were still reportedly hostages being held by the gunman.

In a just world without the institutional privileges that America has, this tragedy, especially so close to Aurora, would open up a media narrative that, once and for all, nationally shunned Michelle Bachmann and discussed gun rights and restrictions. There will be a lot of people praying for the victims tonight that make a living convincing “true” hot-blooded Americans that every foreign person, especially non-Christian foreigners, are the enemy, AND that the natural answer to this is to get armed to protect your family. There will be people that think we need less gun control, because more people with guns would have helped when a peaceful Sunday church meeting was interrupted by gunfire, instead of causing more chaos, more confusion, and more potential victims. There will be more journalists, people who have a national voice, questioning aspects of the victims’ lives and religious beliefs to “get to the bottom of this.” The religion of the shooter will never be at fault, but the religion of the Sikh worshipers will always be mentioned. These will not have been, families, friends, people coming out to worship on a Sunday. These will be Sikhs, worshiping in their temple, attacked not by a madman but attacked because of their religious beliefs. There will be people who call this attack “senseless.” I have a lot of trouble with that label, because there’s almost always factors that make horrors like this seem inevitable (Great Shakesville writeup on how “senseless” violence is anything but here: http://www.shakesville.com/2012/03/on-senseless-crime.html), but this is one of the clearest cases of an inevitable conclusion I’ve ever seen. In the last month, a prominent national politician who is championed as a hero of conservative values by some made it a mission to uncover all Muslims as working for the Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorists, anti-American, and dangerous elements to be removed, and she could be reelected to her position in government. She will be on Fox News again, and people will agree with things she has to say. People will think her version of the McCarthy Hearings were good, and just, and necessary. People of color with a non-Christian religion are often conflated as Muslims, who are then conflated as Al Qaeda, because we all know we can never trust a white male Christian after Timothy McVeigh, right? But in a post-911 world, Michelle Bachmann’s comments aren’t surprising. And they have real consequences for the safety of anyone of color.

Neither did the backlash to gun control legislation that has only ramped up in the wake of the Auora tragedy have nothing to do with this “senseless” act of violence in Wisconsin. And again we’ll hear calls not to politicize this, as if that statement wasn’t political and defending the status quo that someone might notice led to the tactical gear the shooter was reportedly wearing. The entrenchment of the idea of gun ownership as a sacred right and the violent rhetoric about people you disagree with reinforce each other and birth a nastier idea, and when the Constitution, the unborn zygotes, your self-perceived rights, and opposing government officials and laws and lifestyles you disagree with are all seen as requiring violence to protect or stop, people acting on the idea of heroic sacrifice and paying the ultimate price for liberty stop thinking about planning attacks and start attacking.

Going forward, my fervent hope is, somehow, this is the story that sparks a national conversation about how we treat each other, especially those with mental health issues, about the danger of stereotyping, of conflating an entire group with the actions of a few, and about gun control. Especially about gun control, because it’s hard to get an argument going on restrictions past mentioning the idea of discussing maybe having some more gun control. I hope the shooting, being so close to the Aurora shooting, isn’t easier to forget about, but harder. Then I hope that somehow morphs into a discussion about escalation of armament in America. It won’t happen around this shooting, because it would be too easy to frame as “You would have wanted the police to be LESS prepared for the gunman?!” but the militarization of police is absolutely a gun control issue in addition to being a power dynamic issue. A society that doesn’t see anything wrong with a private citizen owning an assault rifle won’t see anything wrong with small towns having fully armed S.W.A.T. teams.

A great piece from Stephan Salisbury about police gun violence on the rise ended with the thought: “Since that time the nation as a whole has become poorer and less white, while police departments everywhere are building up their capabilities and firepower with 9/11-related funding. Gun ownership of almost any sort has been cemented into our American world as a constitutional right and a partial ban on purchases of assault weapons lapsed in 2004, thanks to congressional inaction. This combination of trends should make everyone uneasy.” For non-Christian people of color, it seems the two most dangerous trends combining to threaten them are the fetishisation of gun ownership and the othering of “Muslims”, which is being turned into a pretty encompassing term in the minds of people who don’t think using violence to back up their political beliefs is a horrifying thought.

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The Kids

I’ve known I wanted to have kids since high school. I never had a relationship that lasted over a month until after I graduated college, mind, but through my later years of education, I already had a future full of sprouts thought out, to the point that I worried about the inevitable marital problems when kids came along and I didn’t give my future wife enough attention (I also knew I’d rather not be a single dad, but would rather be a single dad than a single dude if I never married. College thoughts). Obviously, I’d want to spend every waking moment with my kids.

 

I didn’t have these thoughts in a vacuum. I love kids, then and now, immensely. I always got along great with children and had a lot of fun playing with them. It was a great chance to do a number of things I loved that I dreamed of passing on to my potential offspring. LEGOs. Games, phrases, and sayings. Super Nintendo era RPGs. Babies made my heart hurt, because I wanted one so badly. And, while it never really came up until post-college, I was also rational about my desire. Safe sex was tantamount, and I required a much better financial situation (that I’m still nowhere close to, which is a fun realization) before having a child was ever an option.

 

There was a lot that was unrealistic about my thoughts and dreams, but second only to the fact that I had no remotely realistic conception of the mother I wanted these potential children to have besides wife and mom was the reality that I had never spent any significant time around children. I’d babysat once or twice, here and there, and I’d played with my young cousins plenty. But that’s not raising a child day to day and dealing with the constant contact of parenthood. That’s the day away from the family unit dynamic, with other people and things for a child to do wholly independently from her or his parents, including people like me who love to interact with kids an afternoon at a time. This was my interaction level with my little brother and sister, who were born my freshman year in college. Come home for a weekend, hold them, chase them, play pretend, read a book at them as they get disinterest across surprisingly well, drive home, don’t see them at all for a week at least.

 

Then I moved back home post-college, and got my illusions about what kind of parent I’d be shattered by reality.

 

I started to lose the absolute cult-level adoration I had of all children. I started to become bored by my siblings, annoyed by them. I felt like an asshole as I listened to them describe our grandmother’s dogs with the most basic of details and wish they’d go away. Oh, I could still grasp that these were wondrous thoughts they were having for the very first time in their existence, finally able to piece a story together about the facts of life for things that weren’t them; other, distinct creatures. But it annoyed me when I just wanted to finish listening to a This American Life. My handling of day-to-day moments also horrified me. I was short, too quick to anger. I held resentments. I employed shame from time to time to try and teach lessons. And I hated that I did it. I’d yell; occasionally, but I had always assumed that I, as a mentor to youth, would NEVER yell at a child. Surely my words would suffice. But they never did. My brother become proud and willful quickly, and my sister soon joined him, and I had nothing but horrible parenting tools left when they wouldn’t accept my “No,” or listen when I told them it was time to leave my room so I could watch “Adult movies” (videos with swearing).

 

And most times, it was me needing to get a point across desperately and bungling it awfully. The most standout instance was a walk with my partner, my dog, and my brother and sister this summer. It was supposed to be a walk to the end of the block and back, but it was a beautiful day and a lot of fun, and I usually walk my dog further than a block, So we went down the length of the drive at the end of the block that culminates in a cul-de-sac. Brother and sister were getting out far ahead of me, but they were in eye sight. They came back towards my partner and I and passed us the other way as I told them to stay closer. No listening. Then they kept getting closer and closer to the turn back towards home where I’d no longer be able to see them. I was having some leg problems that day and could not run, just hobble-walk faster than my regular pace. And I started to do that as I was yelling after them and getting no response. They turn the corner.

 

Once I turned the corner, I could see my sister on the sidewalk. She had not come back and stayed close, but she was on the sidewalk, which was good. But my brother was in the road. And I was scared, and furious, and felt like I had let him down by not being able to run after him, and trusting him for the walk. And I was screaming as loud and hard as I could at him to get out of the road. A truck turned onto our street at one point. Not being able to do much else, I screamed at the top of my lungs until my brother was at our house, safe. When I caught up to him in our driveway, I shouted at him about not listening to me, how dangerous it was, and how we’re never taking a walk/bikeride together again. At some point, because I’d been walking my dog, I said something to the effect of him needing a leash if we ever go out together again. I can’t remember the exact words, but I know I said something that awful. That my 5-year-old brother deserved a leash for not practicing proper safety. He looked hurt, and turned away from me. And, as it always does, it hit me how I was being a shitty person. I absolutely needed him to understand how wrong what he did was, but instead I taunted him, and said hurtful things, and got loud. I did apologize to him for what I said and how I handled it, and he listened more intently as I then tried calmly to explain why that was wrong, and why he needs to be safer. It ended well. Surprisingly.

 

Is this normal and just thoughts we’re conditioned to put away? Part of the brilliance of Louis C.K.’s parenting jokes is that he talks in raw language about feelings he’s had that he makes ring true and hyperbolic, in the same way “I want to throw you out of a window” is hyperbole but exposes an underlying feeling (of being angry at someone, not forced flight trials), while also making you feel that it’s true when he says his daughters are his world or that he could never leave his family because of how much he loves them. It’s considered brave and envelope-pushing to have a parent character in media, especially a mother, express resentment toward her child, or present the parenting experience as anything less than a life-changing miracle. That’s the way I viewed being a parent before spending real time with children, year upon year (only the two, but, still). And I’m still letting go of the notion that, when I become a parent, everything will fall into place, and I’ll just magically be more patient, more caring, more attentive, and better at communication and boundary setting out of nowhere. I do still want kids. I do. And anymore, I think those traits will come. But they’ll come with the years, as my old wants, and needs, and habits, and the old me, is molded into something new by constant interactions, fights, arguments, triumphs, moments, and sleepless nights, whittled by hours upon hours of constant interaction with children, adopted or otherwise, who I get angriest at when they put themselves in danger disobeying me.

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